PerfectlyPlanned News: Al & John of Brick City Urban Farms

Al and John work for Lorraine Gibbons, a resident of Maplewood. She and her partner John Taylor own Brick City Urban Farms, located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Newark, NJ.   This past Friday I dropped by for a visit and had a chance to speak with the men one-on-one.  I enjoyed the time on the farm, and have decided to include a post about them on this blog.

The two started out as volunteers at Brick City Farms.  They were volunteers while at Integrity House in Newark, and early on cleared and prepared the lot the farm is located on.  They were hired as staff because of their hard work, and today they plant and harvest crops, among other duties.


From left to right: Al & John

“What do you like most about your work,” I asked the two.  The three of us are standing together.  Lorraine is in conversation with another visitor, and nearby the director of a local organization is filming clips of the farm. Al responds immediately, saying “We get to meet beautiful women, work with volunteers, and talk with residents.”  “You’re such a charmer.” I told him, and the three of us laugh.

“In the morning we catch up with moms walking their kids to school,” Al continues.  He mentions that an elderly resident stops by to visit daily.

A man walks in to the farm with questions, and Al walks over to assist him.  I stand off to the side with John, enjoying the sun and the company.

Together John and I walk up and down the rows of plants.  He identifies each plant I am looking at, and suggests I take note of others.  At some point we are in search of pineapple basil. It is a recent addition made by Lorraine, and he loves the plant. He wants me to smell the leaves, and I do.  He’s right, they smell just like pineapple!  There they are:


A mouth watering aroma surrounds me as I walk down one row of plants, but I can’t figure out which plant or plants are responsible! I make the comment to John that our walk through Brick City Farms has made me hungry. John nods in understanding.  He points out various types of lettuce, chives, and onion plants growing, and mentions that when the wind blows it carries the scent of the different plants with it, explaining that delicious aroma.

“We’re growing strawberries this year,” John points out his favorite fruit excitedly.  Al and John get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Literally. They are encouraged to take fresh food home. The men love that. And I can see why after my tour of the farm. Lorraine and John bring fresh food to local families; it’s wonderful that Al and John benefit in this way.  Certainly the community is benefiting from the hard work of these two men!

© 2010 W. S. Hughes


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